Wednesday, 25 January 2012

In search of lost timelines

One of the things that I thought might be an interesting feature to pursue on this blog is to lay out the actual series of events that composed the 'Pace case'.

Since the main occurences and key dates occurred from early January (with the death of Harry Pace) through August (with the final installment of Beatrice Pace's 'life story' in the Sunday Express), it occurs to me that this fits in quite nicely with the publication schedule of the book, which is due to be published on 20 August this year.

Of course, like most of my good ideas, I'm getting on this one a bit late.

But, better late than never, as the saying goes.

I won't be giving detailed discussions of each of the events on the blog (that's what the book's for, after all!), but I will be marking -- 84 years to the day -- some of the key milestones in the case as we go along this year.

As I think about it, this process might help to provide a sense of the scale of the case in 'real time'. As with any historical event, reading about it in retrospect makes it too easy to lose sense of the actual 'feeling' of the time as it went by. For instance, one of the key complaints of Beatrice's supporters was that she had been subjected to an 'ordeal' of grinding suspense as a result of a lengthy coroner's inquest. Perhaps pointing out some key signposts (or, perhaps 'timeposts') as we go along this year, might help to regain that sense of what they meant.

All the posts in this series can be called up by clicking on the 'timeline' label at the bottom of each post.

So, at first, a little catching up, as there was a flurry of activity in mid-January (that is, in a manner of speaking, over the last couple of weeks):

Tuesday, 10 January 1928: Harry Pace -- a quarryman and sheep farmer -- dies at his home ('Rose Cottage') in Fetter Hill, a small hamlet in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, after a long and mysterious illness that began the previous summer. His physician, Dr. Du Pré, confirms a death from natural causes.

Wednesday, 11 January: several of Harry's suspicious family (i.e., his side of the family) meet and decide to take their doubts about the naturalness of Harry's death to the police. The local police, stationed in the nearby market town of Coleford and led by Inspector Alan Bent, begin their investigations.

Inspector Alan Bent
Thursday, 12 January: Inspector Bent and Sergeant Charlie Hamblin visit Beatrice at Rose Cottage and inform her of their inquiries.

Friday, 13 January: Sgt. Hamblin tells Beatrice that Harry's funeral (planned for Sunday, 15 January) will have to be postponed.

Saturday, 14 January: A post mortem examination is carried out on Harry Pace (at his home) by Dr. Charles Carson. Blood samples are taken and several organs are removed and sent to Professor Isaac Walker Hall at the University of Bristol for analysis.

Sunday, 15 January: Several mourners, who were not informed about the delayed funeral, arrive in Fetter Hill, resulting in 'considerable consternation'.

Monday, 16 January: The inquest into Harry's death, led by the coroner, Maurice Carter, opens at the nearby 'George Inn'. A few necessary formalities are taken care of. Carter then adjourns the inquiry for a month, pending the results of the forensic analysis.

Tuesday, 17 January: Harry Pace is buried in the nearby village of Clearwell.

Wednesday, 18 January: Bent resumes his investigations, visiting a chemist in Coleford, who -- among many other things -- sold 'sheep dip'.

What followed was a bit of an official pause, as the inquest could hardly get going in the absence of forensic results.

But, as we shall see, this case was only getting started.

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